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Ons Jabeur has pledged to donate part of her prize money from the WTA Finals to Palestinian aid as the Tunisian tennis star broke down in tears while calling for peace.
Jabeur, seeded sixth, earned her first win at the season-finale tournament in Cancun, Mexico by claiming a measure of revenge against Marketa Vondrousova, defeating the Wimbledon champion 6-4, 6-3 to keep alive her hopes of advancing to the semi-finals.
The world No 7 had lost her previous three matches against the Czech this year – at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, before most notably in the Wimbledon final.
However, tennis was far from Jabeur’s mind when she gave an emotional on-court interview following Wednesday night’s match.
Since Israel began its air strikes and incursions on Gaza, in response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants which killed about 1,400 Israelis and led to the kidnapping of about 240 people, more than 9,000 Palestinians, including 3,760 children, have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
The Israel-Gaza war has also led to a worsening humanitarian crisis, with people in Gaza denied access to basic essentials including water, food, electricity, and medical supplies.
Jabeur, one of the most prominent Arab athletes in all of sports, made an emotional plea and said part of her winnings would be donated to help Palestinian civilians.
“I’m very happy with the win but I haven’t been very happy lately, to be honest with you. The situation in the world doesn’t make me happy, so I feel like …” Jabeur, 29, said before breaking down in tears.
“It’s very tough seeing children, babies, dying every day. It’s heartbreaking, so I have decided to donate part of my prize money to help the Palestinians. I can’t be happy just with this win with what’s happening.
“I’m sorry guys, this is supposed to be about tennis but it's very frustrating looking at videos every day … I’m sorry, it’s not a political message, it’s humanity. I want peace in this world, that's it.”
In her press conference after the match, Jabeur again addressed the issue and said it has been difficult to focus on tennis.
“I try to stay off social media as much as I can, but it's very tough,” Jabeur said. “You go through videos, photos, they're horrible, horrible photos every day. It doesn't help me sleep or recover very well and the worst thing is I feel hopeless. I feel like I cannot do anything. I wish I could have a magic hand and just end all this and just peace for everybody.
“But it is frustrating, and maybe donating some money would help a little bit with what they have been going through. But I know money doesn't mean anything right now to them. So I wish freedom for everybody and really peace for everyone.”
Jabeur has previously spoken out against the war when she posted a message on Instagram calling for peace, denouncing all attacks on innocent civilians, and shedding light on the suffering of Palestinians.
As a response, the Israeli Tennis Association filed a complaint against Jabeur to the ITF and WTA.
“What I wrote in my post on Instagram is what I support, and the biggest thing I believe in is peace,” Jabeur told The National ahead of the WTA Tour Finals. “I’m very sad for the innocent people that are getting killed every day and I wish the world would react and end this war.
“They filed the complaint to the WTA and I’m aware of it, they told me about it. But I didn’t say anything wrong. I just shared my opinion and I stayed within the rules. I actually was surprised they complained about it. I don’t even know why. My message was really peaceful.”
Jabeur returns to the court on Friday to face Iga Swiatek in her final round-robin group match and will need to beat the second seed to advance to the semi-finals.